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August 29, 2005

How Guiliani Can Win, Redux

Similar to my prescriptions, but Baseball Crank elaborates and hits ones I forgot, like this one:

1. Don't Run Against The Social Right

People vote on issues; they vote on personalities; but they also vote, on a deeper level, for that hazy space between the two, a set of ideas about the world and a sense that the candidate is more on their side than the other guy. Which is another way of saying that people can vote for a candidate they don't personally like (more than 50 million people pulled the lever for John Kerry), and they can vote for a candidate they don't always agree with, but they will not vote for a candidate if they identify him as being against them. And this is particularly true of social/religious conservatives (I use the two terms here as largely synonymous, although there are culture warriors on the Right like Stanley Kurtz who aren't especially religious), who are accustomed to feeling beseiged and sneered at by the leading lights of popular culture in journalism, entertainment and academia.

The classic example of running against social conservatives was the brief and unsuccessful 1996 presidential campaign of Arlen Specter, who openly cast himself as the man to save the GOP from the Religious Right. John McCain is perhaps a more graphic example: while McCain himself has a solidly socially conservative, pro-life voting record in the Senate (he voted for both Clarence Thomas and Robert Bork for the Supreme Court, among other things), he repeatedly picked fights with social conservatives in the 2000 primaries. Many of those fights were with the crazier people on the Right - Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Bob Jones - but what mattered was that McCain went beyond simply distancing himself from those figures to openly inviting the media to play the traditional morality play of Good McCain vs. Bad Religious Right. Unsurprisingly, the voters McCain thus implicitly portrayed as villains abandoned him in droves (see here for a contemporaneous example of the push-back).

I'll mention this again: for those put off by Rudy Guiliani's "pro-abortion" position...

1) That was in New York. He will not bring a pro-abortion agenda to the federal level.

2) Bush is well-liked by social conservatives, but he is not the most forward-leaning on the pro-life position. Alan Keyes is strongly pro-life, and he has no chance of winning. Even Bush's rhetoric is not strongly pro-life, or, rather, it's pro-life, but he doesn't mention it very often.

I think the difference between Guiliani and Bush on this (and similar issues) will be one of degree.

3) This is going to be decided ultimately in the courts, and while I do imagine there's a fair probability of Guiliani appointing a moderate or liberal to the court, I imagine he'll appoint mainly conservative judges with a strong bias in favor of judicial modesty and a strong bias against judicial law-making.

4) Social conservatives should think more tactically. It's always better to win 70% of a loaf than 0% of a loaf. "Conscience" doesn't dictate that you should help elect a candidate you oppose just because the one you could support doesn't agree with you wholesale.

And one more point. During the California recall election, I got into an argument over on Free Republic about Schwarzenegger. Yes, Schwarzenegger was liberal on certain issues, I noted, but on most he was strongly conservative, and even where he was liberal, he wasn't as liberal as the Democratic alternative.

One poster ripped into me, calling me a RINO and a sell-out and the like, and urging me to have the "courage of my convictions."

The problem was, of course, that he really didn't want me to have the courage of my convictions. He wanted me to have the courage of his convictions; my convictions were different. Similar at numerous points, but different at some terms.

I think social conservatives get upset because they feel they're always expected to compromises with social-moderate conservatives, whereas the socially-moderate conservatives never compromise.

That's simply not true. Socially-moderate conservatives frequently compromise in order to keep the criticial alliance with social conservatives intact. We frequently support and defend policies which are not of our liking (or, at least, not our top preference) simply because we know that a party split would bring back unfettered liberal government.

It's just not true that social conservatives do all the compromising. If it feels that way, it's largely just because people of course are most aware of when they're not getting what they want, and less aware of when others aren't getting what they want.

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posted by Ace at 03:10 PM

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